Money tips from around the world
Every country around the world has some sort of currency, albeit different. They also have different cultures surrounding spending, saving, and all other things related to personal finance. Americans can learn a thing or two from our neighbors across the pond and beyond.
1. Japan — Employ a budgeting system
A Japanese journalist named Motoko Hani first came up with a now-famous budgeting system called “kakeibo” in 1905. The system is over 100 years old but still just as relevant. Here’s how you do it: Start each month recording fixed income, expenses, and set a savings goal and a promise to reach that goal.
Expenses will be recorded into four categories throughout the month: survival, culture, optional, and extra. At the end of the month, you’ll ask yourself four questions: How much money do I have? How much do I want to save? How much do I spend? How can I improve?
NEXT: Here’s how much you might save by making coffee at home.
2. France — Drink coffee at home instead of buying to-go
In France, it’s more traditional to drink coffee and eat breakfast at home before going to work, instead of grabbing something on the go. Go to most cafes and they won’t even have a “to-go” coffee option. It’s not necessarily a money saving tip but actually that there’s not much of a “to-go” culture there.
When people do have coffee in cafes, it’s usually a time for them to take their time and chat with friends or read a book. Bustle writer Gabrielle Moss estimates you can save $20 to $100 a month by making coffee at home.
NEXT: Mexico’s informal economy makes up this much of its GDP.
3. Mexico — Create a system for saving money
Much of Mexico’s economy operates outside banks, aka an “informal economy.” Fundary writes in Medium that this is because many institutions are ripe with corruption, so citizens don’t trust them. The informal economy makes up about 23 percent of the country’s GDP according to the Mexican National Institute of Statistics.
As a result, many people in Mexico don’t have bank accounts. To help make bigger purchases, communities form “tandas,” or rotating savings groups. Money goes into a pool, which is rotated among members so they can make big purchases without taking out loans.
NEXT: Do this at work to save on your electricity bill.
4. China — Unplug electronics when not in use and charge them at work
Colleagues at Penny Hoarder writer Charlotte Edwards’ school in China charged their electric bicycle batteries at work. When the bikes were fully charged, her coworkers would then plug in their cell phones, laptops, and any other digital widgets low on juice. Charging your gear at work isn’t part of the U.S. culture like it is in China.
The downside of this would be: lugging electronics to work and receiving stares from your coworkers. Instead, try taking your phone charger to work and unplugging electronics at home when not in use. Even turned off electronics will use small amounts of energy if left plugged in.
NEXT: Leave your credit card at home.
5. Germany — Use cash instead of a card to avoid overspending
Germany has “a deep-seated aversion to debt and an emphasis on responsibility,” says the Associated Press. Germans prefer to pay with cash over a card and even utilize the most valuable currency denominations available: the 500 euro note! They conduct 80 percent of their business in cash says the German Central Bank.
Meanwhile, the U.S. might do only 50 percent of its business in cash. It’s risky to carry lots of cash but you can still be inspired by Germany. Perhaps, set aside a certain amount of cash each week in your wallet that you might spend or don’t rely so heavily on your credit card.
NEXT: Phone plans are so expensive in Canada that Canadians are doing this.
6. Canada — Shop elsewhere for cheaper deals
Phone plans in Canada are so expensive that some people find it cheaper to purchase French phone plans, reports Narcity. A Reddit post compared Canada’s plans with France’s and they are waaay more expensive! Using a French phone plan is cheaper even with all the roaming fees attached to it.
We don’t recommend getting a French phone plan (that would not be worth it in the U.S.) but instead apply this practice into other aspects of your life. Buy shoes at discount department stores or buy food at cheaper grocery stores like Grocery Outlet.
NEXT: Here’s how you can save money on groceries.
7. Poland — Forage for or grow your own food
American teacher, Melanie Sosinski, noticed that her students would forage for mushrooms and berries when she taught in Poland. It makes sense — nature provides many edible goodies you would pay a lot more for in grocery stores. Just make sure you know what to look for and don’t pick any poisonous plants.
You might consider if your neighbors have trees or bushes with fruit that goes to waste. Often, plants produce more fruit than one household can eat! Ask if you can have some or trade for it. Growing your own food can save money on grocery store trips too!
NEXT: This subject is taboo in the United Kingdom.
8. United Kingdom — It’s rude to talk about money
It’s a good idea to research customs and taboo topics of conversation before visiting a new country. If you’ve been to the United Kingdom, you might know that it’s a bit of a no-no to talk about money. Never ask someone how much they make, how much they paid for an item, etc.
In Sweden, how much you make is no secret. With an average gender pay gap of only six percent, the right to know other people’s income is part of the culture. Pay transparency has a long history in the Nordic countries — Norway’s published tax returns since 1863.
NEXT: Kenyans come together to solve money issues.
9. Kenya — Try crowdfunding if you can’t afford big life events
“Harambe” is not only the name of a gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2016, but also the term for a tradition of community self-help events. “Harambe” means “let’s pull together” in Swahili. That’s a sweet name for a gorilla, isn’t it? The U.S. harambe equivalent could be crowdfunding.
You can also use crowdfunding to fund any major life events. Close friends and family might be willing to contribute to a GoFundMe page to offset expensive medical procedures or give to a HoneyFund to put towards buying a home in lieu of a marriage registry.
NEXT: Where you choose to dine affects your budget.
10. Ireland — Save on eating out
It’s always fun to eat out but it can get expensive. There are a couple tips that we can learn from the Ireland Move Club. Their website recommends avoiding touristy areas for dining as business owners will try to cash in on quick-spending tourists. Also, eating at pubs is sure to be cheaper than sit-down restaurants.
Pubs attached to restaurants will usually have a cheaper version of the restaurant menu. If you’re not picky about where you eat, you might consider dining out at casual restaurants. Of course, eating at home will always be less expensive than buying meals.
NEXT: Do this before going grocery shopping.
11. South Africa — Don’t shop while hungry
South Africans gave 1Life’s blog various money saving tips that Americans can incorporate into their daily lives. This one resonates with us, especially since we’re going to visit the grocery store a lot for our holiday shopping: Don’t shop while hungry! Make sure to have a snack to hold you over!
Otherwise, you will be shopping with your stomach rather than your brain… Hungry shoppers are guaranteed to overspend and even purchase useless items like four loaves of bread, bags of cookies, crackers, chips, etc. Not good for your tummy or wallet!
NEXT: Here’s what Guatemalans do before a big purchase.
12. Guatemala — Confer with friends or family before big purchases
This practice, often done by writer Amy Dunn Moscoco’s Guatemalan in-laws, was cited in Penny Hoarder. It’s common to ask for input from your loved ones before going in on a big purchase. Many people want advice on what brand to buy and if they should actually buy this item.
Ask your friends or family if you feel unsure about an upcoming purchase. You also might not know if your fam has connections to discounts! They might get you a friends and family discount, have a coupon or an extra of whatever product you need.
NEXT: Hyperinflation caused Zimbabwe to adopt this bizarre currency.
13. Zimbabwe — No money? Trade goods or services
Fortunately, the U.S. isn’t experiencing hyperinflation like Zimbabwe is. However, we might be able to pick up a tip from this West African country when we’re strapped for cash. Hyperinflation has destroyed the Zimbabwean dollar, so citizens sometimes trade prepaid cell phone minutes or U.S. coinage for small goods.
If you find yourself in a bind, it’s often acceptable to trade services and goods for other services and goods. This might only be feasible amongst friends, as other places of business might not want to or be allowed to accept alternative forms of payment.
NEXT: “Merry-go-rounds” help communities in Mali save money.
14. Mali — Commit to saving money with friends
Huffington Post says that rural women in Mali use a financial system called “tontines” or “merry-go-rounds” to save money. Similar to Mexican “tandas,” these are groups who commit to saving money. They decide how much to contribute to a pot of saved money (e.g., $1 a week) and vote on rules, attendance and fees.
The pooled money becomes loans, helping members be able to purchase items for their business, help their families, etc. You don’t need to apply the exact saving methods with your friends but can draw inspiration from it. For example, just the act of committing to save together.
NEXT: Saving on your water bill is possible if you do this.
15. China — Shower at the gym
China offers “shower centers” in which customers can get a shower and buffet dinner for $5. There are also additional services like massages and shoe shining. Nothing like this exists in the U.S., but you might save money on your water bill by showering at your gym after working out.
If you don’t want to shower in public places, you can save on water in other ways. You might use extra water from your french press, cooking or used bathwater to water plants. Next level: use leftover water to flush toilets.
NEXT: This Italian bank had a Harvard case study written about it.
16. Italy — Work with, not against, the local economy
Regional bank Credito Emiliano (Credem) in Italy takes collateral in the form of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese from farmers in the region. Credem stores and ages cheese during the duration of the loan. Thus, the cheese becomes more valuable as it ages. In return, farmers are able to save on operating costs.
Credem gets to hold onto the valuable yet pungent collateral. If the farmers default on their loans, the bank sells their cheese. Harvard published a study on this bank as an example of a bank working with the local economy successfully.
NEXT: Germany’s notgeld currency is a lesson in resourcefulness.
17. Germany — Use your resources
Germany suffered from hyperinflation post-World War I. As a result, Germany’s economy plummeted. To battle hyperinflation, Germans began printing money on anything they could find. This money — printed on wood, fabric, leather, etc. — was coined as “notgeld.” This term literally meant “emergency money” in Germany.
The rarest form of notgeld are currencies made from playing cards called “spielkarten.” Other cultures began using notgeld when faced with hyperinflation as well. When state-issued money wasn’t readily available, DIY made money is often made by residents or even banks.
NEXT: This is what Vietnam does to help out newly married couples financially.
18. Vietnam — Give a new married couple money
At Vietnamese weddings, couples are given red envelopes by all the elders present. In these red envelopes is something that everyone likes: money. The betrothed couple visits each table at their reception to gather their red envelopes. The couple’s immediate family is usually expected to give more than other family members.
If you’re at a loss at what to get somebody for their wedding day, most new couples starting out can use money. They can put money towards buying a new house, an apartment or maybe furniture to fill their new love nest with.
NEXT: How you get to work can help you save money.
19. Netherlands — Save gas, bike to work
Visit anywhere in the Netherlands and you’re bound to find designated bike lanes on all the roadways. Everyone living in the Netherlands uses bikes for transportation to and from work, to the store, to friends’ houses, etc. In fact, 36 percent of Dutch report using the bicycle as their most frequent mode of transportation.
If you work close enough to your house, biking to work even just once or twice a week can help you save some money on gas. Besides saving money, you’ll be able to get in your daily dose of exercise.
NEXT: Products might be cheaper depending on what time of year you buy them.
20. Japan — Make big purchases when it is cheapest
Japanese households will time home purchases to get the cheapest prices, says SelfGrowth.com. For example, furniture is typically purchased early in the year, around January and February. Barbecues are bought during fall months after summertime. Holiday decor is purchased after Christmas when stores are trying to get rid of them.
You might plan your own purchases at certain times of the year for optimal savings. You could go all out and buy big items during Black Friday or Cyber Monday sales, or when the item is off-season. You might be surprised as to how much money you’ll save!
NEXT: Here’s why you should invest in your employees.
21. Finland — Take care of your employees
The Scandinavian countries do have the highest taxes in the world, that is true, but their citizens experience higher standards of living that are even better than other first world countries, like the U.S. One place that many Finnish people invest in is their employees. Happy workers work harder they have found.
In particular, Finland has a great parental leave program. Finnish moms-to-be can start their leave seven weeks before their estimated due date. Then, they can have 16 more weeks of leave. Dads get 8 weeks of leave. That must help the parents save on daycare and get more time to spend with their newborn.
NEXT: Portuguese people prefer the state-owned bank rather than private banks.
22. Portugal — Be careful with your money
Portuguese citizens prefer using the state-owned bank, Caixa Geral de Depósitos, over other banks. That’s because they believe it to be more fiscally conservative and safer than private banks. Banks in Portugal have historically gone through many changes, making them unstable. It’s common for Portuguese to make all bill payments in person.
As a part of running their errands, Portuguese will stop by their bank to make payments instead of relying on online banking. The U.S. economy is more stable than in Portugal but it’s still good to be cautious — use banks and payment systems that you trust.
NEXT: Some Portuguese people are going to this country for work.
23. Switzerland — Go where the jobs are
When the Portuguese economy was in the gutter, young people left the country in search of better work opportunities. Nowhere was hiring in Portugal but other countries in the European Union were. It was common for young workers, especially ones with a college education, to relocate to the most neutral country in the union: Switzerland.
If your town is at a loss for opportunities, you might start looking elsewhere to make some money. The cost of living will be higher in places like New York City or Los Angeles, but you’ll able to find more ways to enhance your career.
NEXT: Here’s another reason to leave your credit card at home.
24. France — Don’t depend on your credit card
“The French are champion savers and depend very little on credit card debt,” Marjorie Asturias of MyInnerFrenchGirl.com tells Tips on Life and Love. “It’s one of the main reasons why their banking system wasn’t hit nearly as hard as ours was in the financial crisis.” Credit cards’ aren’t very popular in France.
Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, told Tips on Life and Love that there were a little over 10 million credit cards in France in 2011 compared with the 76 million in the U.S. That’s a massive difference in numbers.
NEXT: Friendship is friendship, but cheese costs money.
25. Bulgaria — Don’t take advantage of a friend’s generosity
“Friendship is friendship, but cheese costs money,” as they say in Bulgaria. Without context, this direct translation from Bulgarian is confusing. However, this phrase advises against taking advantage of a friend’s generosity. This isn’t a concept that only exists in Bulgaria — people in countries all over the world shouldn’t take advantage of friends.
Just because you know a friend is kind and would help you out when you get into a rut, you shouldn’t rely on that to get you out of trouble. If you keep taking advantage of a good friend, you soon will have no friends at all.
NEXT: Nobody likes a friend like this.
26. Wales — Don’t be cheap
Here’s another strange saying from a land far away: “He keeps a hedgehog in his pocket.” Like Wales, Spain has a similar saying that also means “being cheap” — “keeping a snake in your pocket.” It’s good to be on a budget, sure, but nobody likes a cheap friend in their circle.
Different from a very frugal or poor friend, a cheap one might do things like “forget their wallet at home.” As Aries Jimenez of San Diego Wealth Management puts it: “Cheap is, in some ways, a form of greed.”
NEXT: Here’s how communities in Mexico incentivize themselves to save money.
27. Mexico — Find ways to encourage yourself to save money
“Tandas” are popular for several reasons: they build social trust, give access to a large sum of money and provide discipline for those that have trouble saving. When someone lacks discipline, practicing a system every week and committing to a goal with friends might help. Firstly, you’ll get used to the practice of saving.
Secondly, a group of people will keep you encouraged to save money. Tandas aren’t always perfect, nor will they always work in the U.S., but you can draw two lessons from them: 1) come up with a system to save and 2) commit to saving with friends.
NEXT: Once these coins are exchanged on this island, they’re never moved.
28. Yap — Remember where you put your wallet
One of the strangest forms of currency are the rai coins created on the Micronesian island of Yap. These coins, measuring 12 feet across and weighing over four tons, are believed to have been created since 500 AD. After the limestone coins were used in transactions, they were left in the same place.
That said, you might take a page out of the Yapese’s book and keep your wallet and other important financial documents always in the same place. Put them back in the same place when you’re done!
NEXT: This might not work in all aspects of U.S. culture but it’s worth a shot.
29. Asia and North Africa — Bargaining might get you a cheaper price
In many countries in Asia and North Africa, bargaining or haggling is just another part of shopping. If you don’t bargain, shopkeepers will think you’re dumb for not trying to get a better deal. Vendors always set their prices higher anyway as they expect to bargain. They still turn a profit.
You might be able to bargain at some places of business — more likely small businesses or mom and pop shops. Huge retailers like Walmart will not accept bargaining. You might also try to ask for upgraded services or a discount on a damaged item.
NEXT: This Hungarian currency was short lived.
30. Hungary — Don’t carry large bills on your person
In an attempt to alleviate the stress of hyperinflation, Hungarian financial institutions issued an extremely valuable banknote worth 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő in 1946. Twenty days after it was issued, it was promptly recalled. Nobody in the Republic of Hungary wanted to carry that much cash, perhaps? Or maybe it was straight up a useless bill…
When it comes to your own cash carrying, it’s not wise to carry large amounts of cash on your person. Pickpockets can easily take that cash if they desire or you could misplace it out in public. If you’re forgetful and leave that money somewhere, you will NOT get it back — trust.